What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common chronic foot condition. It can be debilitatingly painful, inhibiting your ability to stand, walk, run, and jump. The fascia is a band of tissue that runs from the ball of your foot to your heel. This tissue is responsible for the arch in your foot. When it becomes inflamed, this condition is known as plantar fasciitis.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is most common in men between the ages of 40 and 70. It is the most common reason that people seek out orthopedic care for the feet. Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:
• Wearing shoes that do not provide proper arch support
• Obesity or sudden weight gain
• Long distance running
• Running on uneven surfaces
• Arch problems, including flat feet and overly high arches
• Tight Achilles tendons
Heel spurs, calcium deposits on the bones of the heel, are common in people who have plantar fasciitis, however, they are not the cause of fascia pain. Plantar fasciitis is often seen in pregnant women because of the weight gain during pregnancy. It is also common in people who have to stand on their feet for long periods of time.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by severe pain. It is often worst in the morning when you wake up and gets better throughout the day. It can sometimes be somewhat alleviated by rest. The pain from plantar fasciitis is often sharp or burning. It may also be present as an ache along the arch. The bottom of the heel may feel stiff. The reason it is worse in the morning is because that is when the fascia is tightest. As you move around throughout the day, the fascia is stretched, leading to some level of relief.
Wearing shoes that do not provide arch support can make plantar fasciitis symptoms worse. Pain may get worse when climbing stairs or engaging in intense activity. The pain can come on over time or come on suddenly and severely.
Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis
Diagnosing plantar fasciitis involves looking for the characteristic stiffness along the heel. If a bone spur is present in the heel, it makes plantar fasciitis a likely diagnosis. During an exam, we will also look for inflammation and thickening along the fascia, as it runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. We will also examine to see if hairline fractures in the bones of the foot are present. X-rays or other imaging tests may be ordered to eliminate other causes for heel pain.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
It’s important to have plantar fasciitis treated right away; left unchecked, it can contribute to severe knee, hip, and back problems. This occurs because you will change your gait to deal with pain, throwing off the alignment of your body.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis begins with physical therapy, which can help you battle the stiffness in the heel that is characteristic of plantar fasciitis. You will learn exercises that stretch the calves to prevent a reoccurrence. NSAIDs can help alleviate pain and inflammation. In some cases, corticosteroid injections can help with both pain and swelling.
A specialized splint worn during sleep can slowly stretch the fascia and help you heal.
Supportive shoes and specialized padded inserts can reduce the amount of tension placed on the fascia and prevent future fascia pain.